Sunday, March 19, 2006

Who Owns "Superhero"?

Over at Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow is in a foul mood over the fact that Marvel and DC forced GeekPunk, a small, independent comics publisher, to take the word "superhero" out of the title of their flag ship title, because they copyrighted the word "superhero."

Now, I agree with Cory, and Scipio Garling at the Absorbascon, that it's a really pissy move and spurious claim, bullying by the larger companies. "Superhero Happy Hour" is unlikely to be confused with any product put out by Marvel or DC, and since neither company actually produces a product called "Superhero," I don't really see what leg they have to stand on.

However, Cory and Scipio seem terrified of Marvel and DC becoming the word Gestapo, hording the good words and ideas for themselves in a megolomaniacal attempt to control the comic book market. That somehow they are making GeekPunk stop producing their title all together and get out of the superhero comics game.

Which is just not happening. All they can attempt to claim control of is the title. The contents of the book remain entirely out of their hands. It's how DC gets away with having one of their biggest and most popular characters be named "Captain Marvel." Because Marvel can't control the word "marvel," any more than they can control the word "superhero," "hero," "flight," or "punch." They just can't.

So, boo on DC and Marvel for being mean. But also, calm down guys. In the long run, this won't change the content or the quality of the retitled "Hero Happy Hour," changing the title won't hurt sales, and all the press generated from these stories will actually help bring attention to the book. If I was a small publisher, and I knew the big companies could be appeased by changing the title in issue 4, I'd be naming my books "Spider-Hombre" and "Super-Dude," just to get sued.

Seriously, sue me.

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